CAPITOL -- New York state plans to sue the federal government to stop a policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
"There's been a lot of talk about the morality of this practice, but we also believe this practice is illegal," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters.
Approximately 70 immigrant children who have been separated from their parents are being detained in private facilities in New York state, Cuomo said. As a result, the state will file a federal lawsuit saying the rights of the parents and children are being denied. A total of about 2,000 children have been removed from their parents since the new "zero tolerance" policy took effect in April.
The policy is under intense debate, with some critics believing the Trump administration is using public outrage over the policy as a mechanism to force a congressional vote on new immigration restrictions.
"I believe personally that the act is inhumane -- it's extortive," Cuomo said. "I believe it's politically motivated, and the children are being used as bargaining chip."
Cuomo is the latest Democrat to speak out against the heavily criticized Trump administration policy, but many Republicans also say the policy needs to end.
The children being held in New York state are in 10 facilities, most in the New York metropolitan area. Cuomo said the state has offered to provide health and mental health services to those children, but each facility has said the state would need to make arrangements through the federal government.
The lawsuit should be filed in about two weeks, said Cuomo counsel Alphonso David. He said the venue of the lawsuit was still being determined.